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German playing cards

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16th C. German Playing Cards

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German playing cards are a style of playing cards used in many parts of Central Europe. Playing cards (Spielkarten) entered German-speaking lands around the late 1370s. The earliest cards were likely Latin-suited like in Italy and Spain. After much experimentation, the cards settled into new suits of Acorns (Eichel), Leaves, Hearts (Herz) and Bells around 1450. Closely related Swiss playing cards are used in German-speaking Switzerland. The French suit symbols were derived from the German ones around 1480. German-suited cards spread throughout Central Europe into areas that were once under German or Austrian control. They were also produced and used as far east as Russia until the early 20th century. German-suited decks are not well known all over these countries including parts of Germany itself as they have been undergoing strong competition from French playing cards since the late 17th-century. Traditional card games in which the German suits are used include Skat, Schafkopf, Doppelkopf and Watten.
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